As a professional organizer all of the amazing spaces I get to work in, and even the great space I live in, recently got me thinking about how much square footage and living space we actually need to be comfortable in. I suppose it depends on the family size of course, and factoring in how much stuff we've manage to accumulate throughout our lives beyond the essentials. In the basements, shoved into drawers and cornered into closets are years worth of clothing we no longer wear, grandma's holiday dishes we feel compelled to keep and piles of junk we haven't looked at in years. Where is the line drawn between the extras, what we hold onto and the necessities? According to the National Association of Home Builders, the average home size in the United States was 2,700 square feet in 2009, up from 1,400 square feet in 1970, despite a decrease in the size of the average family. The numbers don't lie. We love to buy stuff. In most cases that leaves us with less space, even though we purchased more of it, and less time to enjoy it provided we have to work harder to maintain it. Yikes. Not to mention how this is hurting our environment in terms of wasting energy and resources. It requires more land, energy, building materials, and appliances to build larger homes. There is however a shift happening. Some are opting for a more simplistic lifestyle and one that promotes and supports sustainability. Think less stuff, more living, less space, more life. It's more than a movement, or a passing trend. It's a truly a remarkable way of life.
Enter TINY HOUSE NORTHEAST. They design, build and outfit environmentally sustainable tiny homes as well as offices throughout the Northeast. THNE is founded on the formula of sustainable development, with social responsibility and caring for the environment at the forefront. In some cases the houses are as small as 20-ft, pictured here which was featured at the recent RIBA Home Show, a bit of a downsize from 2700 sq feet of space. But don't let the size fool you, these are highly efficient dwellings.
Most tiny houses are designed to have everything a modern person needs to live. They include a kitchen, a bathroom, a living room, storage and some even sleep up to four people. While this may not be the typical dream house for some, those seeking simplicity and a simpler way of life have found their version of it. I first spotted a tiny house while scrolling through Pinterest and immediately became fixated on how incredibly resourceful they were as well as magical looking. Most were nestled beneath the woods and resembled something similar to a fairytale setting. Cozy, compact and planet friendly. Literally everything you need in one space. That's when I decided I wanted to learn more about tiny houses.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Isa, the project manager, GC and design leader at TINY HOUSE NORTHEAST. Isa has a masters degree in sustainable development, and filled me in on her day to day as well as provided me with so much insight into the world of tiny houses. Her passion for conserving resources and vast knowledge of what goes into building a tiny home was impressive and admirable. When she isn't spending time speaking with buyers of tiny homes, or volunteering her time to help she is working on resourcing the environmental friendly construction materials needed as well as finding builders, who are always experienced carpenters.
Isa spoke about the main reasons people are opting for tiny houses. Financial freedom is one. While there are multiple factors in determining the cost of a tiny home it is considerably less money than purchasing a larger home. The extra cash and time you have, due to less maintenance of your home, can be spent traveling or simply enjoying activities you love. There is also the aspect of enjoying the great outdoors when living in a tiny home. Organic and sustainable gardening, farming and essentially using the Earth as your source of food and relaxation beginning at home is a lifestyle change that those looking to purchase a tiny home are yearning for.
Typically when your living space is tight quarters you want to get outside, get some fresh air and as Isa so eloquently put it "the outdoors becomes your living room".
From a planning perspective there are many angles to take into consideration. Isa explained the many layers of the planning process that go into the purchase of a tiny home.
- Very little closed storage available is a huge consideration. When limited storage options exist what furniture to purchase and the placement of it is very important, the pairing down process truly becomes all about the essentials.
- Zoning in on the buyer's habits also is important. Do they have pets? How much time do they plan to spend outside?
- The type of tiny house also varies for each buyer. The 3 types of tiny homes to choose from are turn-key wheel houses, weelshells and foundation ready. All dependent upon the needs of the buyer.
- Location and the setting of the home are discussed as well and buyers must adhere to local zoning laws and regulations. Then of course there is electricity, sewage and water to take into consideration.
- The planning page on the TINY HOUSE NORTHEAST site can walk you through getting started. Any questions from weather related concerns to the cost of a tiny house are answered over on the FAQs page of THNE site. THNE truly provides such an expansion of knowledge for those looking to purchase a tiny house, even for the DIYers, and offers classes to educate those who are interested in committing themselves to a simpler life.
As we are slowly depleting our natural resources at a much faster rate than we can replenish them, continuing on and building larger homes is unsustainable and comes at a significant financial and environmental cost.
So what does the future of tiny house living look like in terms of the benefits it provides our one precious home, Earth, and even our well being? As we are slowly depleting our natural resources at a much faster rate than we can replenish them, continuing on and building larger homes is unsustainable and comes at a significant financial and environmental cost. Utilizing natural sustainable resources to build a home that takes up significantly less space is not only protecting our home but I believe is providing others the opportunity to be more present as they live their lives with intent. Instead of becoming consumed with stuff, it is allowing others to have the resources to travel, garden, enjoy the outdoors and live simply. I have always believed that the spaces we live and work in have a deep connection to the way that we feel. Tiny homes may appear small but the impact they have on those who are committed to embracing the lifestyle is massive. Less is always more, don't you think?